Beppe Grillo (64) lacks the good looks of a movie’s leading man. In fact, the man sometimes looks almost grotesque. He often dresses like a bum.
Grillo’s been an Italian comedian for most of his life, but also an actor and blogger. He’s been involved in politics since A.D. 2009 when he founded Italy’s “Movimento 5 Stelle” (the Five Star Movement, or M5S).
During its first three and a half years, Grillo’s Five Star Movement was ignored by the press and shunned by Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi’s TV stations. But M5S relied on its own efforts and the internet to fuel its meteoric growth, and refused to accept government money available to help finance its campaign. During the recent campaign, it relied only on a thin, 15-page platform.
According to Spiegel Online:
“Only a few weeks ago, [the Five Star Movement’s candidates] hardly would have thought it was possible. But now here they are; their first public appearance following their surprise success in the Italian general election. In a hotel in Rome, not far from the Piazza San Giovanni, eight of the 162 newly elected parliamentary representatives of Movimento 5 Stelle are squinting into the spotlights and speaking softly — and what they are saying actually sounds reasonable.
“Grillo himself did not run for office because it would have violated his own party’s rules. He has had a criminal record ever since he was convicted of manslaughter for causing a car crash in 1980 in which three people died. Now, it’s up to his candidates to take the lead.
“Grillo is an Italian phenomenon, but his party’s election results are an expression of the mounting rage and anxiety that is spreading throughout crisis-stricken Southern Europe. A new citizens’ movement is taking shape, one that shares a mistrust of the established political system and a desire for more grassroots democracy. Only in Italy has it been democratically legitimized thus far.
“These irate citizens are also united in anger against their own elite: politicians who have been tainted by party scandals and corruption, yet still remain in power . . . .”
Beppe Grillo has become the single most important unelected politician in Italy—maybe all of Europe—maybe all of the world. He has single-handedly started a new political party that’s taken control of Italy.
What’s the secret of Beppe Grillo’s success?
Truth. The man told the truth. He has a 40-year track record of telling the truth as comedian. I suspect that telling the truth in a form of comedy allows people think in a way that is gentle and funny. If so, Grillo helped Italians to to think without being frightened by the process of thought.
In the end, Grillo and the people who support his Five Star Movement are infuriated by the same sort of blatant corruption and treason in Italy as we are in America.
Thus, Beppe Grillo (and the internet) gives us hope. In just 3 and a half years, the Five Star Movement grew from a comedian’s idea to a predominate political party. Hope is possible.
Perhaps most importantly, as a comedian who’s been publicly observed and recorded throughout his comedy career, Beppe Grillo has that 40-year track record of telling the truth about the Italian government and about himself. He’s not an “artificial candidate” sent down from central casting who knows what the public wants to hear and says it. In fact, Grillo’s not a candidate at all. Instead, he’s a man who’s spoken truth for the past 40 years and can therefore be expected to also do so for the next 40, as well. That track record gives people confidence.
More than anything, that’s what the Italians want: politicians who tell the truth. I suspect that may be what Americans want as well: politicians who are honest rather than deceiving. The Italians are just as sick of smiling, smooth-talking, stylish bullshit artists as we are.
It’s interesting to me that: 1) Beppe Grillo’s party grew from nothing to predominance in just three and a half years; and 2) it’s just about three and half years until the next US presidential election. There’s plenty of time for a new third party to emerge in the USA and take control of Congress. We aren’t helpless or hopeless. We can regain control of America if we care to make the effort
Here’s a video of one of Beppe Grillo’s 1998 comedy routines. He speaks in Italian, but video has English subtitles. What’s he talking about? Fifteen years ago, he was talking about the corrupt nature of fiat currency.